TVision: ‘Nip/Tuck’ really is cut out for cable

Sunday, October 11, 2009 at 8:56pm
Dr. Sean McNamara (Dylan Walsh) and Dr. Christian Troy (Julian McMahon)

Nip/Tuck along with The Shield helped turn FX from a cable afterthought into a serious player in the dramatic sweepstakes.

The saga about plastic surgeons Dr. Sean McNamara (Dylan Walsh) and Dr. Christian Troy (Julian McMahon) and their rather unusual practice and clients became the highest-rated basic cable program in history in both coveted demographic categories — ages 18-49 and 25-54.

It also became (and remains) a target of conservative watchdog groups, particularly the Parents Television Council, even though the program has always aired at a late time, and runs constant warnings about its content. Such incidents as a show featuring a funeral worker assembling his ideal woman from the body parts he’s “borrowed” from other dead people ruffled tons of feathers, as did a depiction of a woman doing a self-mastectomy with an electric turkey carving knife.

But just as the violence in a program such as Dexter, or the language in The Wire, these outrageous acts only tell a small part of the story and aren’t the reason for the show’s popularity. Nip/Tuck has put the spotlight squarely on the issues of vanity and self-esteem, and how much people’s appearance is connected with everything in their lives. It spoofs, mocks, and distorts those fears and worries frequently, but the best episodes also reveal a lot about human nature, societal and cultural norms, and what men and women are willing to do in the attempt at holding onto youth and beauty.

The show’s sixth and final season begins Wednesday night at 9 p.m., and there’s a new face in the cast this year. Rose McGowan takes on the anesthesiologist role formerly played by Katee Sackhoff, while Mario Lopez also returns to the show.

FX is splitting up the final 19 episodes. Half of them will be shown in this first run, with the last installments set to air during 2010 at a later (as of now undisclosed) date. It will mark an even 100 episodes for a program that’s earned its fair share of Emmy nominations, but as of yet has never won any Emmy awards (it did get the 2005 Golden Globe for Best Television Series – Drama).

‘Kitchen’ finale

For those who get some thrill out of watching people verbally abused on camera, another season of Hell’s Kitchen concludes Tuesday night on WZTV-17 at 7 p.m. It’s a two-hour edition, giving prima donna chef Gordon Ramsey two full hours to vent, preen and insult all those who don’t meet his lofty standards.

Since everyone’s an adult on the program and they know what they’re getting into, it’s hard to have any sympathy for those who later go crying to various Internet types about Ramsey’s conduct.

Still, it would be nice if just once if one of them turned around and told him what they thought of him, or better yet even dumped something on his head. Now that would be great television.

Butler on ‘Saturday Night Live’

One day after his new film Law-Abiding Citizen opens nationally, Gerard Butler serves as guest host on Saturday Night Live at 10:29 on WSMV-4. Latin dance/pop star Shakira is the musical guest.

Ratings are down thus far on the season about seven percent, which makes sense in a non-election year. The show’s also undergoing its customary personnel changes, and even had a minor obscenity scandal a couple of weeks ago. But thus far, it isn’t enjoying anywhere near the impact it did during the Obama/McCain campaign, but it’s still quite early in the season.